Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Second Chuck Berry Show: Lake Tahoe, July 4, 1971! A News Article!

I've always wanted to learn more about my second Chuck Berry concert.  After starting this blog, I found some information about the place I saw it on line, and then contacted the promoter, a musician named Jim Burgett.  Here's a recent story about Burgett in The Tahoe Daily Tribune, and some words about the show, the contract, and Burgett's dealing's with Berry.  All I can tell you is this: Chuck played TWO SETS!  TWO!  Long ones!  Great ones!  Oh, to go back!

And at 15 years old, I got a chance to shake his hand.  Dang!  (He was smoking, and talking to a big guy.  Maybe it was one of those 49ers.)

It was the ultimate Chuck Berry show, with a great band, 1600 kids crammed into an old safeway store, and 700 people and a bunch of police waitiing outside.

I remember walking away with my friends before it was even over.  We banged out a side door and heard the music booming as we headed towards the lake and home. 

What's amazing, reading it now, is how happy the promoter is to describe what sounds like it might have been a crime.  First, the promoter probably breached the contract by providing the wrong equipment.  (Berry's contract usually requires that the promoter provide dual showman amps; there may have been a time he insisted on bassman amps.)  Then he has professional football players "escort" Mr. Berry to the stage to enforce the contract through two sets. 

Imagine if I wanted some work done on my kitechen.  The contractor signs a bid but says that it's my job to provide electric current for his tools.  When he gets here there's no electric current.  The contractor gets grumpy and says "This might be a short day."  So I call in some large buddies to keep the contractor there until the job is finished.  Some people might call that false imprisonment-- a crime and a tort.  Generally speaking, you can't hold someone against their will for your purposes.

Mr. Berry nonetheless stayed and played two sets-- two of the best I've seen him do-- backed by Mr. Burgett's very good band.  It wasn't a short night at all-- it was probably the most Chuck Berry I've seen in one performance, and some of the best. 

What Mr. Burgett should do is thank his stars and gods. 

Ah well.

(By the way: in an e-mail Burgett was far kinder telling the same story in some earlier internet postings.)

Read about it here.

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